Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Cannot Forget

It happened seven years ago today. The world seemed to stop that day. Normal routine was thrown aside as we stared in horrified fascination at the debacle. We saw debris raining from the twin towers. And then we realized that is wasn’t stuff; it was people.

Within a few hours, the lives of thousands of innocents were deliberately snuffed out in an effort to make a political statement. Until that time, most of us could not even conceive the possibility that such unspeakable evil could exist outside of fiction.

We wept. Across the world most mourned with us. Others celebrated.

We felt confusion about how anyone could hate us so fiercely. We felt vulnerable. We felt angry. And we wanted to do something. We donated blood, only to discover later that it was not needed.

Friends, associates, and family members were stuck in airports, as the nation’s air fleet was grounded.

That evening, political leaders of both parties stood on the steps of the Capitol and spontaneously joined in singing, God Bless America.

The world changed that day. For a brief moment, we put aside our differences and realized we were all Americans. The crime rate dropped to all-time lows for a few days. We hung out our flags. Churches held memorial services. And our resolve grew.

Our airports turned into permanent police states. And we determined to stop the evil from hurting us again. In the ensuing seven years, we have sometimes hurt ourselves in this attempt.

This morning on the way to work I listened to the radio, much as I did seven years earlier. As commentators talked about 9/11/01, and played clips of the events of that day, I was surprised at the thoughts and emotions that swelled within me. For a few moments the poignancy of that day was undimmed by the passage of time.

My children have spent much of their lives in a post-9/11 world. Even the oldest is likely too young to remember or to have experienced the national trauma in the way that most adults did. My children don’t understand the sense of innocence lost. I don’t know that I will ever be able to adequately express to them how I felt that day.

I realized this morning that I can never forget 9/11/01. I may push it aside as I deal with everyday life, but I will never forget it. I hope that in our national grappling with that day, we have gained some wisdom in the past seven years.

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